Intestinal obstruction caused by a laxative drug (Psyllium): A case report and review of the literature

Ashraf F. Hefny, Adel Z. Ayad, Nikolay Matev, Masoud O. Bashir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Psyllium in granular dosage form is used as an over – the counter safe laxative drug. It has a considerable hygroscopic propriety which allows it to retain water and expands rapidly to become many times of its original size. Presentation of the case: 21-year-old man presented to the Emergency Department complaining of lower abdominal pain and constipation for five days. He was discharged home on Psyllium for treatment of the constipation. Two days later, he returned to the Emergency Department complaining of increased abdominal distension without passing any stools. The patient was diagnosed to have an incomplete intestinal obstruction resulting from ingesting Psyllium husks without adequate amount of fluids. The patient was treated conservatively. Discussion: Psyllium has a reputation of being safe and effective medication for patients suffering from chronic constipation, especially in elderly. The patient who ingested Psyllium husks as a herbal medication did not receive adequate amount of fluids. Consequently, he developed intestinal obstruction. Similar cases have been reported in the English literature including cases of esophageal obstruction in elderly patients and following gastric banding operations. Furthermore, Psyllium administration with oral contrast in computed tomography enterography may precipitate bowel obstruction in the presence of organic obstruction or post-operative ileus. Conclusion: Psyllium can worsen the constipation if not taken appropriately. It is important to instruct patients who are receiving psyllium ingredients to drink a good amount of fluids to avoid the development of bowel obstruction especially in long-term use of such laxatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-62
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Surgery Case Reports
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Case report
  • Constipation
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Laxatives
  • Psyllium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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